I didn't know exactly what I wanted when we came here. But I had an idyllic picture in mind. Rolling hills. My cottage like little house. Horses grazing peacefully. So, there I sit with this charming little picture in my head and I start working on it.
Then I have an interruption.
During that interruption I learn something new and I come back to my idyllic picture with new ideas. Part of what has already been done has to be changed or pulled out and started again. I feel like I have a grasp on things. On occasion, I actually even feel like I am picking up speed....
Then I have another interruption.
I learn something new. I come back to my little farm with new ideas..... now here I am five years later and feeling very much like I haven't made any progress whatsoever. But this spring it seems to have all fallen into place. What I have learned is now at the cutting edge of what small scale agriculture can be. What I am learning now is refinement of my system and I don't think I will be tearing too much out anymore. I think..... I hope....that I have arrived at what my idyllic home is going to be, with all of the details filled in.
My pasture areas have been enlarged, but I am not using them as a block of pasture, which is traditional. I am making them as a track system so the horses graze the outline of the pasture. The interior is fenced off so that you end up with what appears to be a large oddly shaped donut. The interior of the front pasture/track system will be used for an additional hay field. It will probably have to be hand cut and hand baled but that is okay, it's the only way that I am able to get small bales. I can live with it. The back track system goes around two areas, making something of a figure eight. The farthest north area is becoming the orchard. The southern section will become another hay production area and also a future site for a pond ( I hope, I hope!!)
The orchard area is the more interesting now. In the orchard I am implementing a hugelkultur system of planting. I have been working at dragging dead pieces of trees and branches up and forming them into lines running perpendicular to the slope. This is going to add in erosion control and also catch more water that will get absorbed and held by the dead wood. I am adding some aged manure to these wood piles. Also pieces of char. Some of it is charred wood that I have burnt down myself, some I cheated and bought hardwood charcoal from the store ( not the briquets!) I still need to get in there and augment with fish emulsion, bone meal, lime and some stuff that will break down, such as leaves and straw. Good topsoil is layered in here and there and also covers the top. As we progress we will be heavily mulching the top soil. Since the hugels are not fully developed, I have been concerned that they will get broken down by deer and hard rains. I have put out repeller ribbon twisted to get full effect from reflective light and tied between two posts. So far it is working. The deer seem to be leaving things alone. I do not have enough plant material to effectively mulch so I am planting pumpkins around the fruit trees to protect from evaporation. The spiny vines should also give additional protection from deer and rodents. Spring was late in coming this year, so we are still taking baby steps. But I am already seeing good erosion control from the method.
The track system was what made it possible for me to bring it all together. Each area does double duty. The north area, the orchard, might even do triple duty. I am still thinking of getting the Old English Babydoll Southdown Sheep. They are a small homestead size animal. They are grazers, not browsers, so they won't be harming my trees. They will be keeping down the grass in between the trees. I can rotate the sheep from the orchard to one of the hay areas once the hay harvest is brought in so they will be enriching the soil.
It has all finally come together. All of the methods have interlaced and the plan is becoming a working machine. The only drawback is that you have to double fence. Some people use temporary electric fence, but I am doing something a bit more substantial. Mainly because I want to use what I can find on my property to keep costs down, which means cutting more hedge posts. But I know where I'm going now and that's good news.
PS. You might want to check into some articles on hugelkultur. There is a good one on permies.com Also, there is a wealth of information via Geoff Lawton. Everyone really should watch his video "From Desert to Oasis in Four Years" Amazing stuff! www.geofflawton.com